Notifications

New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.


By Amy Zhang of Ping Chong + Company
 

Sara Zatz Ping Chong + Company's Sara Zatz Photo: Adam Nadel
In the rehearsal room are seven folding chairs with music stands in front of them, arranged in a semi-circle. A poster titled "Community Agreements" hangs on the wall. Seven young adult New Yorkers, in hoodies and caps, stand in the corner, waiting for the music for their entrance. Courtney, the stage manager, starts the sound cue, and one by one, Edwin, Syl, Monica, Porscha, De-Andra, Rafael and Mohammad walk onto the stage and take their seats. It's the opening of a run through of Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ

"You're walking on stage for the very first time!" Sara Zatz, the co-director and co-writer says. "Take your time and really own the space. Don't rush it."

Owning the space, and owning your own story, is at the center of Ping Chong + Company's award-winning theatrical series, Undesirable Elements. Since 1992, the New York-based experimental theater company has created over 50 interview-based theater works that explore issues of culture and identity in specific communities. The basis of the script is in the participants' own words; stories gathered from intensive interviews are interwoven with historical research. While the form—the chairs in a semi-circle, the use of clapping as interludes—is in the same in each production, the results are always vastly different because of the nature of stories told. Sometimes the cast, who are non-professionals, are telling their stories for the very first time. 

For the 25th anniversary of Undesirable Elements, The New Victory Theater commissioned a show that tells the coming-of-age stories of New York City's diverse youth. The recruitment process took over a month: Sara Zatz and artistic collaborator Kirya Traber reached out to over 50 community organizations and schools in New York City, hoping to find 18-21 year olds from a wide range of backgrounds and neighborhoods, willing to share their experiences.

 

The Performers The performers of Generation NYZ, left to right: Edwin, Rafael, Mohammad, Monica, Porscha, De-Andra and Syl. Photo: Adam Nadel
Thirty people filled out the participant questionnaire, which included questions about personal background and reflections on living in New York. From these packets, Sara and Kirya invited 20 people in for individual two hour interviews. 

"We were thrilled to receive such an enthusiastic response to the call for participants," Sara said. "We knew we wanted the cast to reflect the kaleidoscope of experiences in New York City, and was especially mindful of finding stories across the five boroughs. Choosing the final ensemble was tough—we were originally thinking of a cast of five, but expanded to seven because we met so many amazing young people with important stories to tell." The company hopes to keep in touch with the young adults ultimately not selected, offering acting workshops and tickets to company performances. A few of their voices will also be included in a pre-show lobby installation that can be experienced during the show's run at The New Victory's smaller venue, The Duke on 42nd Street theater. 

There was excitement and some shyness when the cast of seven met each other for the first time. Between them, they know seven languages (including American Sign Language) and hail from all over the city, from East New York to the South Bronx. After a quick introduction excercise, Kirya sat everyone in a circle and asked the group to make a list of community agreements.

 

Ping Chong and the New Vic Ping Chong + Company in one of their first planning sessions with the New Vic
"Respect each other's boundaries," someone said. Sara wrote it on the poster in marker. 
"One voice, one mic."
"Be open, ask questions."

"Has anyone heard of the yellow zone?" Kirya said, after a pause. Everyone shook their head. She explained, "Green zone is those things you share easily with the world. Like your name, where you're from. Red zone is private stuff that you can't share with anyone. The yellow zone is a space with a bit of risk, things that you don't normally share that make you feel vulnerable." 

For a show that includes personal stories about serious issues like mental health, bullying, LGBTQ+ identity and homelessness, it was important to Kirya and Sara to form a safe, open environment. Before every rehearsal, they check in with the cast—how is everybody feeling? And the Community Agreement poster stays on the wall, which they review. Soon, the stories that the cast has shared with each other in intensive interviews and group conversations will be shared with the world at the Duke on 42nd Street.
 
Amy is a writer, producer and educator living in New York City. She's the Communication and Program Associate at Ping Chong + Company, and also the Associate Non-Fiction Editor for Hyphen Magazine. Passionate about storytelling in all its forms, she writes for the page, screen and stage. ​Follow her on Twitter!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
January 17, 2018

The Music of Generation NYZ

 
The first thing you notice at Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ is the playlist greeting you as you take your seat. From the beginning, you know that this will be an entirely unique experience. Although each of the seven members of the cast has lived through incredibly different circumstances, the one thread that binds them is their love of music. Four of the performers, Monica, Edwin, Syl and Mohammad share the songs that inspire them the most. 
 

Monica Victoria Tatacoya Castañeda

Monica"Sorry Not Sorry" by Demi Lovato makes me feel unapologetic about being me. In a world where you are shunned for not conforming to what society wants from you, it’s important to be confident in yourself.

"Secreto de Amor" by Joan Sebastian has been my favorite since I was a child. I don’t even remember how old I was when I first heard it. At first, I loved it because it just sounded so nice. Now, I'm drawn to it because it brings back memories of much simpler times. It calms me down. 

"Praying" by Kesha makes me feel hopeful. There are people who come into your life who try to destroy who you are. "Praying" gives me that sense of hope that comes when you see a new sunrise in the horizon, the hope that you will come out better because of what you went through. 

Music is very important to me. There are some things that words alone can’t express or offer. Music gives me those things I need. Simple words can’t offer comfort when I need it or always express how I'm feeling. Music is that one thing that touches everyone. It speaks to each person in a unique way. 

Edwin Aguila

Edwin"Text Me, Call Me (I'll Be There For You)" by Jabir Farooq. This is my own song! It means so much to me because it shows how much I've grown. When I started recording this in 2016, I became more willing to take risks and put myself out there.

"1-800-273-8255" by Logic. This song by Logic is one that means a lot to me since I’ve dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts. I wish I had this song while I was dealing with my personal demons. 

"NY State of Mind" by Nas depicts the reality of my New York and paints a vivid picture through the lyrics.

Music is very important to me. It saved my life! It allows me to find an outlet for my feelings. It also allows me to heal and escape reality for a bit.

Syl Egerton

Syl"Claire de Lune" by Claude Debussy is a piece of classical music. It's probably the most beautiful, bittersweet and heart-wrenching pieces I've ever heard. I feel like it encapsulates the slight sadness I can always feel at the bottom of my stomach. At the same time, it's so calming, it lets you work through that tinge of sadness at you own pace. I like setting it to loop, lying down and listening to it as long as I need.

"Intro: Never Mind" by BTS is a song I listen to when I need to get motivated. It has lyrics that just make me want to run faster, work harder and be stronger in general. I play it when I need to smash out a paper, and just generally when I'm feeling bogged down and sluggish and need a kick.

"I Will Be King" by the Hoosiers is a weird one. It's simultaneously celebratory and slightly creepy. I like those types of songs and relate to the lyrics of this particular one a lot. The Hoosiers tell a lot of stories with their music and I just love the way they sound. 

Music is unbelievably important to me, I never leave the house without my headphones, otherwise I lose my mind. I have a playlist for every mood so my taste is all over the place. I love things from heavy rock to classical music to rap. Music is just something that makes me feel really good and helps reassure me that things will be okay. I get easily overwhelmed by thoughts, sometimes random or bad, and music helps me tune them out so I can focus or reach a goal. It's thanks to music and singing that I've been able to build up my confidence and speak in public or in front of an audience. 

Mohammad Murtaza

Mohammad"Love Never Felt so Good" by Michael Jackson makes me feel like dancing with someone. It's a song that puts you in a good mood at any time and makes you wanna get up on your feet. The first time I ever heard it was in middle school when my friend played it for me. He knew Michael Jackson was one of my favorite artists, and was surprised when I didn’t know the song. 

"Crayon" by G Dragon makes me wanna go crazy and hypes me up. I feel like partying every time I hear it. The first time I heard it was also in middle school, after my best friend had shown me a song that G Dragon's group Big Bang had put out called "Fantastic Baby." I was entranced by their swagger and electronic pop/hip-hop feeling. So I searched them up, found "Crayon," and instantly liked it.

"Return of Simba" by J Cole makes me feel like a G, like I’m tough and confident. I first heard it when I was a sophomore in high school. I thought his vibe was dope and that he was a good artist, so I searched him up online and found all his songs. I loved it all, but "Return of Simba" was such a good "come up" song and I really love it.

Music is very important to me. It's my first form of self expression. It's been an outlet for me, a way to find myself and a way to join a community. The feeling you get from appreciating an artist’s work and finding out someone else does too is indescribable. As an aspiring artist as well, I write a lot of music and find myself looking to my favorite and most respected artists for inspiration. 

Photos: Alexis Buatti-Ramos
 
 

 
From East New York to West Harlem and from the South Bronx to Far Rockaway, witness the jubilant victories, recent discord and distant dreams of coming of age in Undesirable Elements: Generation NYZ

 
Posted by Beth Henderson
January 25, 2018

Family Activity: Bromance


Design a card for your "bro," challenge your family to a competition and find your inner balance in this Family Activity! You can find all of our past Family Activities on our blog and at Pinterest.com/NewVictory.

Bromantine

There are loads of ways to tell someone you appreciate them. In the spirit of Valentine's Day, write a card to your favorite "bro."

Materials: Paper, coloring and writing utensils

Step One: Discuss what you think a bromance is. Is it a gendered term? Can two females have a bromance?

Step Two: Think of someone that you have a special relationship with. This could be anyone, a teacher, a sibling, a parent or a coach. Consider these questions:
  • What makes that person special?
  • What is one thing they do that you really appreciate?
  • How would you describe your relationship with them?

Step Three: Once you have chosen your person, think of a relationship in popular culture that reminds you of the relationship you have with that person. 

Examples:
Bert and Ernie
Bert and Ernie
 
Simone and Aly
Simone Biles and Aly Raisman

Joe Biden and Barack Obama
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Former President Barack Obama

Step Three: Using markers and crayons, write and decorate a card. HINT: Use the relationship you identified in Step Two as the text for your card. 

Example: You are the Bert to my Ernie, a true friendmance. Thank you for always making me laugh!

Example

Step Four: Once you have finished your card, don't forget to give it to the person and make their day! 

BONUS: Bromance is the combination of the two words "brother" and "romance." What other words can you smash together to create a new word for a type of relationship? For example if you are close to your cousin and think of them like a sibling, you could call them your "cousling!"

Anything you can do, I can do better!

The bros of Bromance are always one-upping each other. In this activity, see which family member can do these quirky challenges the best! 

Step One: Try out these challenges below.

Most Ambidextrous
Together, choose a word and then everyone try to write it with their left and right hand. Whoever writes both words best gets a point. 

Most Bendy Fingers
Bend your index finger back to your wrist. Whoever gets closest gets a point. 

Longest Tongue
Touch your nose with your tongue. Whoever can reach the furthest gets a point.

Most Likely to Tie Themselves in a Knot
Try to touch your tongue to your elbow. Whoever can do it gets a point.

Most Flexible
Touch the ground without bending your knees. Whoever can do it gets a point. 

Most Eye Control
Cross your eyes. Whoever can do it gets a point. 

Step Two: Once you finish the challenges, tally your points.

Step Three: Do you have any other hidden talents? Show your family. If you are the only one that can do it add a point to your tally. Whoever has the most points at the end, wins! 

All in the Balance

In Bromance, you will see jaw dropping tricks and physical feats, including those with a Cyr Wheel! To perform acrobatics with a Cyr wheel, you have to have excellent balance. In this activity, practice your balancing skills and see if you can be like the guys from Bromance

Cyr Wheel
Materials: Books of varying shapes and sizes, coins, masking tape 

Challenge One: Quarter Spin
  • Every person playing picks up a quarter.
  • At the same time, try spinning quarters on a table and see whose coin spins the longest.
  • Bonus: Try spinning the quarter and see if you can make it stop while keeping it standing up.
Quarter Spin

Challenge Two: Book Balance
  • Using masking tape, create a path on the floor.
  • Take turns balancing the books on your head and seeing if you can walk on the line.
  • Bonus: Add extra challenges like adding more books or trying to distract people while they are walking.

Challenge Three: Spin Doctors
  • Close your eyes and spin around three times.
  • See if you can walk on the tape line without falling.
  • Whoever can do it best, wins!
Photos: Chris Nash

 
Bromance Thumb In Bromance, the astonishing talent of these three mates from London will make a hopeless bromantic out of you. Get your tickets today!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson

Travelling all the way from London, Bromance is an adrenaline-fueled circus show by the Barely Methodical Troupe, where handshakes become handstands and backslaps become backflips. Get to know the creators of Bromance—Charlie, Beren and Louis—as they share how they first discovered circus, what happens when a show goes awry and what "Love of Theater" means to them. 
 


Map of LondonWhere are you guys from from? 

Charlie Wheeller: Southampton, England, but I'm living in East London now.

Beren D'Amico: I'm from South London. The others look down on my neighborhood, but they're just naive about the vibrancy and character of the South!

Louis Gift: I grew up in Islington, in North London. It's way nicer than South London.

 

Charlie Charlie Wheeller
How did you first get involved in circus?

CW: When I was growing up, I loved getting involved in the local theater groups, including one that my dad ran. I was also a physical kid, who loved playing football, breakdancing and even gymnastics. When I was looking at universities, I applied to the National Centre For Circus Arts in London. There, I met the Cyr wheel and I haven't stopped spinning since.

LG: I had always been into flips and acrobatics ever since watching Power Rangers on Saturday mornings as a kid. I specialize in hand-to-hand acrobatics as a base, but all of us make a conscious effort to train in complementary disciplines. This helps keep the creative juices flowing and is also nice for a bit of a change up.

BD: I had a love for all things physical from the get go, since my parents toured with the legendary French circus company Archaos. I found tricking and fell in love. Eventually, I decided circus school made the most sense for me and trained in hand-to-hand as a flyer.

What was your most memorable onstage experience?

 

Beren Beren D'Amico
LG: Opening our second show, Kin, at The Roundhouse was particularly special to me. That venue is close to where I've lived for most of my life and it's also where I saw one of my very first circus shows. Standing backstage and hearing the cheers and support from the crowd as we ran on to start was a moment I'll never forget!

BD: Mine happened at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival during the 'Politicians' act in Bromance. We move and manipulate chairs, whilst sitting and standing. During one performance, a stray Cyr wheel smashed one of the chairs to pieces (thanks, Charlie.) We had to completely improvise. It was terrifying.
 
CW: It worked so well! We even talked about permanently adding it into the show.

What's the most daring trick you've tried?

CW: The craziest trick I've performed is a double somersault with an open out in the middle, back to the teeterboard. We've just started throwing flips from the teeterboard to human pyramids. That's where the risk factor rises another couple of notches. Fingers crossed! 

LG: The most daring trick I've tried was before I was ever involved in circus. I was on a beach in Cornwall, England, and I saw this cliff that seemed jumpable. I went up and looked over the edge to see how scary it was from up high. I spent about 45 minutes repeatedly running up to the edge to get ready, until I eventually went for it. It was about 30 feet so there was a nice bit of airtime. I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again!

What does "Love of Theater" mean to you?
Louis Louis Gift

CW: An audience leaves their age in the foyer at the theater, entering the auditorium as an ensemble, ready to be whisked up and electrified by the spectacle. We all remember that one show or that one evening, where we travelled home from the theatre a different person, filled with inspiration from indescribable magic.

LG: It means a love of drama and a love of fantasy. When audiences see a performance, it's an opportunity for them to enter a fantasy world in which the performers act out a situation where they can experience emotion and drama, without having to deal with the fallout. Having said that, sometimes what an audience wants isn't the drama or a message, but good, clean fun. I think it is important not to undervalue that!

BD: From the inside, it would be that mad adrenaline that comes from perfectly executing your hardest trick, successfully making a whole theater full of people laugh or the spontaneous moments that take you by surprise. From the outside, it would be seeing something that instantly makes you want to go and create something or train harder than ever before.
 
 
Bromance Thumb In Bromance, the astonishing talent of these mates from London will make a hopeless bromantic out of you. Get your tickets today!
Posted by Beth Henderson

​The New Victory Theater launched the New Victory Usher Corps the day the theater opened to provide paid employment, job training, academic support, mentorship and an introduction to the performing arts for over 50 young New Yorkers each year. Since then, the program has provided over 400,000 hours of paid employment to over 500 NYC teens from across the city. Find out how teens ages 16-21 in your life can apply to be a part of this award-winning program here!

All season long, we'll be featuring young people from the Usher Corps in our New Vic Bills and here on the New Victory blog. Today we're talking to third-year usher Carlos Vega from Brooklyn, New York.
 

CarlosMy favorite show at The New Victory was…
Brazil Brazil because it was a different type of circus. My favorite act was when a man did multiple back flips in one place.
 
The show I’m most excited for this season is…
I can't wait for Air Play because I've seen those artists perform with Big Apple Circus.
 
The thing I like most about being an usher is…
Every year, I get to meet new people.
 
My dream job would be… 
Any job that I could work with my hands.
 
My love of theater started... 
I first fell in love with theater when my brother got me tickets to see a show at the New Vic!
 
What's your favorite subject in school?
Math because I love numbers.
 
What's your favorite NYC hangout?
I really enjoy hanging out at the New Vic with the people I work with before and after our shifts.
 
Describe the most challenging thing about being an usher.
Sometimes it's tricky to teach new Ushers because everyone learns differently.
 
Describe your dream vacation.
I would love to go to Egypt one day.
 

 
New Victory Thumb Want to learn more about The New Victory Theater Usher Program? Take a look here!

Photo: Alexis Buatti-Ramos
Posted by Beth Henderson

Wrapping up our celebration of the New Vic's new, vibrant lobby spaces, we sat down with our Executive Vice President, Lisa Post. She shares with us the past, present and future of our lobby spaces!
Lisa Post
The mission of The New 42nd Street is to make "extraordinary performing arts and cultural engagement part of everyone's life" through our work at The New Victory Theater, The Duke on 42nd Street theater, The New 42nd Street Studios and through our partnership with New York City and New York State in the transformation of this historic bxlock. At the New Victory we are certainly fulfilling the "extraordinary performing arts" part of the mission, having now brought amazing shows and incredible artists from around the world to The New Victory stage for more than two decades.  As for the "cultural engagement" part—at least in terms of the public—our engagement has been limited to family workshops and the modest activities we could manage in lobbies designed twenty-two years ago.

Ever wonder why our lobbies are below ground? When we first opened The New Victory Theater, we had to create a lobby space that wasn't there before! In the original structure built by Oscar Hammerstein I, the seats went nearly to the street so we shortened the orchestra depth to create a street level lobby and box office, and dug down below to create more space. At the time of the 1995 renovation, the idea of a theater for families and kids on 42nd Street was untested, so a decision was made to keep this space generic and not tailored for any age. For so long, our lobbies have been bland, uninformed and disconnected from the spirit and vibrancy of the work presented on stage. 

Ribbon Cutting

So, in 2015, when we decided that a renovation was in order, we also decided that remodeling couldn't just be about carpets and paint and water-saving bathroom fixtures. Renovating the New Victory lobbies had to, for us, be a reinvention, something that would extend and a deepen our mission now that the New Vic has been established as an essential part of New York City's cultural fabric. We wanted the new lobbies to not just house our patrons, but to delight and excite them. These spaces couldn't just be serviceable, they had to sing like the artists on the stage. So, while we did install those water-saving fixtures, we also worked with our architects and consultants to create an environment that encourages families to engage with the work on the New Victory stage. (In case you missed it, read Lindsey's blog about the thought behind our arts engagement activities!)

New Lobby

We're so glad to see the lobby working the way we hoped it would. As with any planning process, especially over a two-year period, we had some anxiety that all the decisions we made were in an echo chamber. The looming question was...will this work? And...it has! It's been such a joy to see kids and families use the space in the way we hoped, eating and relaxing in our space and generally having a great time. 

LuEsther's Lobby and Jack & Lew's Lobby are spaces where families can joyfully interact with each other—play together, eat together and talk to each other—but also meet other families, too. Our goal has been to make every part of coming to see a show at The New Victory an opportunity to engage and participate in both creativity and community—to make The New Victory feel like every family's cultural home. Here's looking to the future and all that is possible!

 
 
Bromance Thumb In Bromance, the astonishing talent of these three mates from London will make a hopeless bromantic out of you. Get your tickets today!

 
Posted by Beth Henderson